Sunday, 15 April 2012

Independence Revisited

I don't normally blog about international affairs and I'm not, really, going to start tonight.

Today's news however is dominated by events in Kabul. Now, I am certainly not among those who opposed the attack on Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. The governing regime there had clearly allowed their Country to be the basis of an unprecedented terrorist attack and, even in the aftermath of that attack, were not willing to give up its organisers. To that extent, it seemed to me that to argue that direct military action was not then justified could really only proceed from a premise that direct military action is never justified. And that's never been my view.

But, even in the almost immediate aftermath of that intervention I wondered what we were still doing there, and that bemusement has only grown with the passing years, with or without the rising British death toll.

It may be a pretty cynical view of the world but if the Afghans, by their own choice, want to live in the 13th Century, then that is surely a matter for them. I doubt if they'll be daft enough to allow their way of existence to encroach on the lives of the rest of us any time soon. And if they are then we'll just need to go back.

But the relevance of today's events in Kabul is that it reminded me of an earlier event: the Tet Offensive.

Just as then, this was something that American military might was meant to make impossible, and yet it happened. And just as then, I suspect it marks the beginning of an end.

Now, why does the Tet Offensive ring such a bell in my memory? Because it is one of the earliest political events of which I have a clear recollection. It was regarded in my household, and thus by me, as a generally welcome event, even if regrettable in its necessity.

I was nine.

I've been involved with the politics of the Left all of my life. I read an fascinating profile of Alex Neill in Holyrood Magazine this week and I understood his underlying need to protest too much in justifying the betrayal of everything he was brought up to believe in. I suspect he doesn't sleep very well. If it's any consolation, I wouldn't be able to sleep at all.

But I was almost more annoyed at his assertion that he had had to lie about his age to join the Labour Party at 15. You could always join the Labour Party at 15. I did. Although I accept that in some parts of the Country you might have been 16 before you were "checked out" and actually allowed in. 23 in Harry Selby's Govan.

But, oddly, that lifetime commitment to one cause allows me to understand, even sympathise, with those with a similar commitment to another.

So, much as I personally think it is a deranged idea not hugely dissimilar to the apparently majority opinion among the Afghans, I respect the consistency of those who have always believed that Scottish Independence  is an essential ambition.

I have to say however that I am increasingly puzzled as to who these people might be. It seems to me that their are a number of essential elements to an "independent" country: You have control of your own borders; your own currency; your own National Broadcaster; your own Head of State and your own military forces.

Now, at the danger of sounding like a rabid cybernat, this is of course not what the SNP are offering at all. Indeed, if I were of a Cybernat persuasion I might be inclined to rant that having border controls dictated by the ENGLISH; using ENGLISH currency; watching ENGLISH television; owing allegiance to an ENGLISH Queen and now, apparently, forming part of the ENGLISH armed forces is, in fact, in terms of influence in our own affairs, somewhat worse than that which we have at present.

And this is only to be the maximum option offered in a two question referendum! The way things are going the second question will be "Are you sure you want a Scottish Parliament at all (It's awfy expensive)?"

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as either Gibbon or Acton wrote. (Can't be bothered to Google).

The SNP leadership have done astonishingly well electorally by being "Not the Labour Party".  And until Labour gets our act together within the micro-climate of Holyrood, they can, no doubt, look forward to the continuity of that success, But, unfortunately for their rank and file, they are enjoying the fame that goes with it too much to put that fame at risk. And while politics might not be for all its players "Showbusiness for ugly people", that is certainly what it regrettably becomes for too many in its higher reaches. In all Parties

That's why if I had a lifelong commitment to Scottish Independence, reflecting on Today's events, I might find my sleep as disturbed as that of Alex Neill.


  1. Acton. Unaided by Google.

    I was 4 at the time, so I can't remember Tet (I can remember the fall of Saigon though). I can't remember Neil Armstrong landing on the moon either (but again I did watch people landing on the moon live on TV). But those are details. The main thing is that I can remember Hibs winning the League Cup and I even have a signed team photo.

    Unlike you, I always did think that an invasion of Afghanistan was a poor idea. The history books told me it had been a poor idea in 1842 or 1878 or even 1979, so we knew what to expect. Iraq, that I was fine with in principle although the execution left much to be desired. My real problem there was that it should have been done earlier. Bush Senior could and should at least have ordered US forces to annihilate Saddam's Republican Guards if he wasn't willing to order US forces to take Baghdad. But enough digressions.

    There's only once kind of independence. The usual vague, uncertain "freedom to achieve freedom" kind. Promises of Social Union and shared currency might be sincerely meant - stranger things have happened - but you're no longer eight so you have no real excuse for treating them more seriously than they deserve. After we have our very own Separation Day to celebrate all bets are off. There is, after all, a big difference between being in favour of joining the EU, or NATO, or using Sterling today and there being a majority for them in a post-independence parliament.

  2. Alex Neil. One "L". Read better.